A research team headed by Duke Medicine and Jenomic (a privately owned cancer research company) has developed a way to utilize sickle blood cells to combat cancerous tumors.
Recorded in Plos One, senior author Dr. Mark W. Dewhirst describes the process of manipulating these sickle-shaped red blood cells. By employing the qualities that constitute their lethal status, to selectively target cancer tumors in test mice as well as block the blood vessels that confine it.
"Sickle cells appear to be a potent way to attack hypoxic (oxygen-starved) solid tumors, which are notable for their resistance to existing cancer chemotherapy agents and radiation," said Dr. Dewhirst. "This is an exciting finding that suggests a potential new approach to fighting tumors that are currently associated with aggressive disease."
"The very qualities that make sickle cells a danger to people with the inherited genetic disorder can be turned against tumors to fight cancer," said Dr. David S. Terman, Jenomic’s head of Molecular Genetics. "Our approach using sickle cells is a novel strategy with broad therapeutic potential that could be directed at breast cancers, prostate cancers, and many other solid tumors that develop resistance to current therapies."
The collaboration between Duke and Jenomic researchers began back in 2006 to investigate whether or not sickle cells could build clots preventing tumors for receiving oxygen-rich blood.
The study began by giving a collection of mice with breast cancer an infusion of marked sickle cells. Within just a few minutes, these sickle cells adhered to the vessels surrounding the tumors. In just under half an hour the vessels that fed the tumor had been blocked.